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Senior veterans of the Soviet space program gather at the unveiling of a memorial 

plaque in honor of Valentin Glushko at his former workplace in Building 65 at 

NPO Energiya. From left to right are M. S. Khomyakov, V. M. Filin, A. I. Ostashev, 

N. I. Zelenshchikov, B. Ye. Chertok, O. D. Baklanov, V. M. Karashtin, and M. N. Ivanov.

His illness progressed. He managed to ask Yaremich and Stanislav Petrovich 

Bogdanovskiy, the director of Energomash’s Experimental Factory, who vis-

ited him six days before his death, that his body be cremated and his ashes be 

delivered into space—to Mars or Venus. Glushko passed away on 10 January 

1989. His request about the cremation raised no objections in the top-ranking 

Party organs. But no one could fulfill his last wish. The urn containing his 

ashes was buried at Novodevichye Cemetery. Fastened to his granite gravestone 

was a stylized image of the last great creation of Soviet cosmonautics—the 

launch vehicle Energiya gushing a fiery plume with the Buran orbital vehicle 

perched on its back.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the main portion of its sci-

entific and technical inheritance and industrial potential of the rocket-space 

sector remained in Russia. The mass breakdown of economic contacts with 

the former Soviet republics and the actual loss of effective government sup-

port threatened the scientific and technological potential of domestic rocket 

technology and cosmonautics.

History assigned a mission to the leaders of the rocket-space schools—

survive no matter what; preserve and pass on to new generations not only 

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Valentin Glushko, N-1, and NPO Energiya

technology, but also the best of the traditions and human aspirations that 

united and contributed to the immensely rapid development of cosmonautics. 

Fifty years after the launch of the first artificial satellite, the two leading space 

powers, the United States of America and Russia, have no great strategic pro-

grams. Humankind really needs Korolev, Glushko, and von Braun. Hundreds 

of modern-day managers will never replace them.

581


Epilogue

The world in the 21st century continues to change at a scorching pace. 

Today’s reader working in any of the new fields of technology has very little 

time for reading all four volumes of my memoirs. I am counting on the atten-

tion of those who were there at the turn of the millennium, who are trying to 

make sense of the past and are not indifferent to the future.

The second half of the 20th century is replete with truly revolutionary 

scientific research, discoveries, and engineering achievements. World War II 

and the Cold War years gave rise to aerospace, nuclear, radio engineering, 

and computer technologies, and they became a great material strength. Just 

in the two decades after the war, space was transformed into a real necessity. 

The race between the two great powers to explore space was more risky and 

arduous than the rivalry between Spain, Portugal, and England during the 

Age of Exploration.

In the 20th century the rate of scientific discoveries increased hundreds 

of times. Historians believe that the total achievements of scientific and tech-

nical progress over the past 50 years have exceeded everything that was done 

in the preceding 5,000 years. The “hot” and “cold” world wars have receded 

into the past, but myriad local wars continue. They stimulate some fields of 

science and technology, slow down others, and devour enormous resources, 

which could be spent on further breakthroughs into the secrets of nature, on 

discoveries, and on enriching human knowledge. The thirst for knowledge 

did not die even in the darkest periods of human history. This is a powerful 

driving force. I was one of the warriors at the very leading edge of scientific 

and technical progress, and working there was enthralling. Writing memoirs 

about this bustling time has proved more difficult than being directly involved 

in the dynamics of the process.

I do not regret that I was born in the Russian Empire, grew up in Soviet 

Russia, achieved a great deal in the Soviet Union, and continue to work in 

Russia. Hundreds of thousands, even millions of my contemporaries lived 

“not by bread alone.” Those who revile their native land’s past in pursuit of 

big news stories and careers and try to trample underfoot everything that our 

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Rockets and People: The Moon Race

people have created forget that they owe their very existence here on Earth to a 

heroic generation that saved human civilization. Yes, we made many mistakes. 

But those who excel in the cynicism of subverting everything that happened 

“after 1917,” under the cover of the hastily hammered together philosophy of 

utilitarian pragmatism, will not shy away from the criminal plundering of the 

riches created by the people for the sake of their own enrichment.

The most difficult thing for 

me, the author of these memoirs, 

was performing flight control on 

an imaginary time machine. Where 

and for how many lines should I 

pause? What route shall I take next? 

It is up to the reader to judge how 

successful my choices have been. 

Taking advantage of my rights as an 

author, I would like to quickly sail 

through the history of astronautics 

in the second half of the 20th cen-

tury. In the process of this cursory 

perusal I would like to show the 

errors that we in the USSR, and in 

Russia, and also that the Americans 

made when producing space tech-

nology. At the beginning of the 

Space Age, fully competent and 

active developers of actual rocket-

space systems pondered over its 

future, rather than outsider pundits. It is very interesting to contrast what 

they dreamed of with what actually came about, what they worked on, and 

what considerable funds were spent on. I will say, right off the bat, that both we 

and the Americans were quite wrong in our predictions. We have a legitimate 

excuse—the tragedy of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which protracted into 

a 10-year permanent political, social, and economic crisis. The Americans had 

no such legitimate excuses. It is all the more amazing that they made so many 

more errors in their prognoses. Therefore, let’s start with them.

The United States entered the Space Age on 1 February 1958, when a 

Jupiter-C launch vehicle (a modification of the Redstone combat missile) 

inserted Explorer 1—a satellite with a mass of 14 kilograms—into low near-

Earth orbit. A group of German specialists headed by Wernher von Braun 

developed the Redstone and Jupiter-C in the United States. I will remind the 

reader that the Soviet Union inserted the world’s first artificial satellite (with 

From the author’s archives.

Boris Chertok.

584


Epilogue

a mass of 86 kilograms) into space and a second one carrying the famous dog 

Layka in 1957. After the Redstone came modifications of American combat 

missiles Thor, Atlas, and Titan II, which were used as space launch vehicles. 

The first American Mercury single-seat spacecraft were inserted into ballistic 

trajectories using the Redstone and into Earth orbits using Atlas-D launch 

vehicles. Launches of Gemini two-seat spacecraft were the preparatory stage 

of the Apollo program. The Titan II launch vehicle inserted these vehicles into 

Earth orbit. The flight of the first U.S. astronaut [in orbit], John Glenn, took 

place 10 months after the flight of Yuriy Gagarin. The new Saturn I, Saturn IB, 

and Saturn V were designed from the very beginning as space launch vehicles 

rather than strategic weapon delivery vehicles.

Rockets from the Saturn series were designed above all for the Apollo 

program of piloted lunar vehicles. It was assumed that after the first lunar 

expeditions were completed and the Saturn V launch vehicle was updated, 

it would be used for new missions—the creation of a habitable base on the 

Moon and the beginning of piloted flights to other planets. However, after 

the conclusion of the Apollo program on 7 December 1972, the Saturn V was 

used just one time, without its third stage, to insert the Skylab experimental 

orbital station.

1

 The Saturn IB completed its last flight in 1975 as part of the 



Apollo-Soyuz program.

After 1975, the United States abandoned piloted flights until the reusable 

Space Shuttle space transport system was put into service. The Delta, Atlas-

Centaur, Titan II, and Titan III launch vehicles were subsequently used only 

to insert unpiloted spacecraft of various applications. America’s rejection of 

the tried-and-true, reliable Saturn V launch vehicle seemed strange. I believe 

it was a mistake. American historians of astronautics whom I have met have 

been unable to give a clear explanation as to why, despite previous plans, they 

“laid to rest” the excellent Saturn V launch vehicle.

In 1965, the United States prepared a prognosis of the development of 

astronautics until the year 2001. These data were presented at a high-level 

symposium in March 1966 in Washington, DC. In 1967, we received the 

opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the American plans in documents 

classified “secret” or “for official use only,” despite the fact that in the United 

States, materials from the symposium were available in open publications. The 

majority of our specialists assessed the American prognoses as overly optimistic, 

 

1.  The final Apollo mission, Apollo 17, began on 7 December 1972. The crew of astronauts 



Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald E. Evans, and Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt returned to Earth on 19 

December 1972 after Cernan and Schmitt completed three extended excursions on the lunar 

surface.

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Rockets and People: The Moon Race

but no one dared call them absurd. The argument was primarily about the 

reality of the dates. We believed that even working with us, the Americans 

could fulfill a significant portion of these plans, but around five years later 

than planned. And without us, one needed to add another five years or so.

As it is impossible to discuss in detail our rivals’ prognoses for all areas of 

astronautics, I shall touch on the epochal ones. The Americans intended to 

put small, continuously operating orbital laboratory stations (like our Salyuts

into service in 1972; an orbital complex with chemical engines in 1973; ones 

with nuclear engines in 1974; a large orbital research laboratory in 1976; a 

piloted orbital global communications, information, and surveillance center in 

geostationary orbit in 1984; and an orbital manufacturing complex in 1987. 

Piloted flights to other planets would have begun with the landing of a human 

being on the Moon in 1969. From 1975 to 1978, there were plans to create 

a continuously operating lunar scientific station, a manufacturing base using 

local resources, and a lunar interplanetary spaceport!

NASA managers, the directors and vice presidents of leading aerospace 

corporations, reputable scientists, employees of the Department of Defense, and 

even members of Congress delivered reports about the captivating prospects for 

colonizing almost all of near-solar space. The boundaries of American interests 

extended far beyond near-Earth space. He who masters space will master the 

world—the prognoses of 1966 were built on this principle.

The Americans planned a heliocentric expeditionary flight using nuclear 

rocket engines for 1981 and a Mars reconnaissance station, Mars surface land-

ing, and study and colonization of its satellites for 1984 to 1986. A piloted 

flight with a possible landing on Venus was supposed to take place before 1988. 

In 1966, American scientists still did not know what Venus’s atmosphere was 

like and what the conditions of its surface were. Beginning in 1967, one Soviet 

automatic Venera spacecraft after another reported that our idea of life was 

not compatible with the conditions on Venus.

During the period from 1990 to 2000, they planned to create scientific 

research stations on the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn. They didn’t forget about 

Mercury either. They planned to create a station on Mercury to study the Sun, 

and by the end of the century—mines and enterprises to extract and process 

metallic ores. Numerous flights of automatic vehicles—interplanetary recon-

naissance probes—were supposed to precede all of these piloted expeditions.

Now we know that this prognosis panned out only in terms of the first lunar 

expeditions and automatic reconnaissance vehicles. The Americans fulfilled 

President Kennedy’s national challenge to land on the Moon. The role of the 

lunar expeditions for the United States consisted not just in gaining scientific 

and technological priority, particularly over the Soviet Union. This red-letter 

day rallied the nation as a unified sociocultural whole.

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Epilogue

Examples of the flights of the first Soviet cosmonauts from 1961 to 1965 

and of the American lunar expeditions from 1969 to 1972 graphically showed 

that such achievements are truly a powerful stimulus for unifying society; 

each citizen has the opportunity to be proud of the achievements of his or 

her country. After such triumphant victories, public opinion magnanimously 

pardons optimists for their prognostic errors.

The future programs of piloted orbital flights and exploration of the Moon 

and planets depended on having a refined Saturn V launch vehicle by 1975, 

bringing its payload mass to 160 tons, a launch vehicle successor to Saturn 

with a payload mass of 320 to 640 tons (developed by 1989), and a reusable 

aerospace delivery vehicle.

They intended to make broad use of impulse nuclear and thermonuclear 

rocket engines as the primary propulsion systems. These would shorten the 

flight time to planets severalfold compared with chemical fuel engines. Their 

plans also called for prosaic near-Earth space systems for the purposes of 

meteorology, communications, navigation, global surveillance, and monitor-

ing ecological safety.

To a great extent, the prognosis of 1966 panned out regarding the flights 

of interplanetary automatic vehicles. American scientists made sensational 

discoveries every year while studying Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, their moons, and 

even the most distant planets of the solar system. In near-Earth space, new, 

strictly utilitarian commercial benefits and prospects for achieving military 

superiority in space were discovered. Fans of piloted flights to the planets had 

to “come down to Earth.”

The situation during the years 1971 to 1973, when the Space Shuttle 

program was being considered, required that the managers responsible for 

decision-making carefully add up the total cost of the program and the annual 

budgetary limits for the various attractive versions of reusable systems. Ten 

years later, in 1976, the Americans once again mobilized scientists to draw up 

a forecast for the development of space technology for the period from 1980 

to 2000. This was a much more serious collective scientific work concerning 

all areas of science and technology supporting the development of astronautics.

For piloted Earth-orbit flights, the idea of doing away with expendable 

launch vehicles gained a foothold. The main difference in the plans and cor-

responding decisions of 1966 and 1975 was that in 1975 there was a much 

more refined technical base, created for the Apollo program and for military 

space, scientific, and economic programs over the past decade.

Citing the space successes of the USSR, the Pentagon demanded that more 

funds be allocated to military space programs. They had yet to be formulated, 

but ideas were already “in the air” regarding the future Strategic Defense 

Initiative (SDI).

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Rockets and People: The Moon Race

In 1975, the main criterion for selecting proposals based on prognoses 

for all fields supporting the advancement of space technology was the cost 

(in dollars) of inserting units of mass into low-Earth orbit. As far as delivery 

vehicles were concerned, all subsequent decisions were made in favor of 

the Space Shuttle. Moreover, it was assumed that it would be substantially 

improved compared with the design that was already being implemented. All 

plans were based on the overly optimistic estimates of the cost of inserting 

a payload into space and also on the fact that the Space Shuttle would not 

only insert but could also return expensive space hardware to the ground 

for repair and relaunch.

NASA’s preliminary estimates showed that compared with an expendable 

launch vehicle such as the Saturn IB, the cost of insertion into low-Earth orbit 

decreased, at first threefold or fivefold, and then tenfold. While neglectful eco-

nomic estimates had been allowed in 1966, in the 1970s they were performed 

more meticulously. It is all the more surprising that the Americans, knowing 

how to count money much better than we, predicted a completely ridiculous 

cost for the insertion of a unit of payload mass by the year 2000.

For various scenarios using the Space Shuttle, the cost vacillated in a range 

from 90 to 330 dollars per kilogram. Moreover, it was assumed that the second-

generation Space Shuttle would make it possible to lower these numbers to 33 

to 66 dollars per kilogram.

American economists erred by a factor of 60 to 100! Such mistakes are 

simply inconceivable when calculating the technical parameters of space sys-

tems. If American economists could commit such mistakes, should one reproach 

our domestic economist-reformers, who consider U.S. economists overly 

authoritarian? Powerful modern computer technology has sharply increased 

the confidence level and reliability of scientific and engineering calculations. 

Sometimes practical results are even better than calculations because input data 

with considerable margins have been loaded into the computer. Economic 

calculations for large systems in principle will be erroneous if the main baseline 

parameters are subjective considerations, the political situation, or an ad hoc 

social mandate.

The American scientists’ prognoses in 1966 and 1967 for the piloted flight 

programs proved true only with regard to the first lunar expeditions and the 

creation of the Space Shuttle reusable piloted transport system. For the sake 

of this system they didn’t just mothball the reliable Saturn V launch vehicles. 

The launch complexes at Cape Canaveral and at the John F. Kennedy Space 

Center were modified for the Shuttles, and they were no longer suitable for 

Saturns. The actual dates for creating a lunar base and for an expedition to 

Mars were moved far beyond the year 2001. The thrilling prospect of coloniz-

ing the planets of the solar system (before the end of the 20th century), which 

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Epilogue

was elaborated in detail in 1966, in my view, in the best-case scenario, needed 

to be postponed to the second half of the 21st century.

The first flight of the Space Shuttle reusable space transport system took 

place on Cosmonautics Day, 12 April 1981.

2

 To be fair, I must say that in 



terms of fundamental scientific research, the Americans surpassed their own 

prognoses. After spending more than 2 billion dollars, they used the Space 

Shuttle to insert the automatic Hubble satellite into space; this is a large, even 

by Earth-based standards, telescope for astrophysical research. The information 

obtained using the Hubble over the years of its service was many times greater 

than the information that the field of astrophysics had possessed before this.

In the early 1970s, after six piloted lunar expeditions, the construction 

of a permanently operating lunar base and an expedition to Mars before the 

beginning of the 21st century seemed quite feasible not just to scientists, but 

also to the clear-eyed managers of aerospace corporations. The main factor 

precluding the implementation of even these two very realistic programs was 

the turn of U.S. politics toward the militarization of space. Somewhat later, 

the whole array of military space programs to intimidate a potential enemy 

was called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The main objectives and 

missions of the SDI program were considerably clearer and more necessary to 

the Pentagon, to large corporations, and to the majority of Congress than was 

the aspiration of romantic scientists for interplanetary travels.

In the late 1960s, the USSR and the United States adhered to doctrines of 

nuclear deterrence. Their gist was based on the following concept: both sides 

possess such means that if one of the sides were to use nuclear weapons first, 

then the retaliatory strike would force the aggressor to incur exorbitantly high 

expenses relative to the possible gain. Such a balance was based on the common 

sense of the sides. Both great superpowers agreed in principle that deterrence 

based on mutual vulnerability was not only expedient, but also necessary.

However, such an approach created a threat for the main producers of 

combat missile systems, nuclear warheads, nuclear submarines, and airplanes 

carrying nuclear weapons. Actually, if so much weaponry were produced 

that by design each of the opposing sides knew it was capable of destroying 

the other many times over, then the amount of orders, and consequently 

the profits and super-profits, would decrease sharply in the near future. 

Moreover, politicians who realized the senselessness of the continued buildup 

of strategic weapons began negotiations to limit and reduce them. The Soviet 

 

2.  This was the STS-1 mission with astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen 



piloting the Space Shuttle Columbia on a two-day mission.

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Union spent enormous resources and paid a high price to achieve quantitative 

and qualitative parity with the strategic rocket forces of the United States. 

American strategists, having realized that the Soviet Union had achieved 

parity, discovered a way to inflict heavy economic damage on it without 

resorting to nuclear attack. If there were more than enough intercontinental 

rockets and nuclear warheads, then it was necessary to invest many billions of 

dollars in creating an effective defense, rather than in the buildup of means for 

nuclear missile attack. Theoretically it wasn’t difficult to justify the need for 

creating fundamentally new systems to protect the United States. American 

propaganda loudly declared that Soviet missile weaponry was creating an 

increasingly greater threat to the viability of American forces of deterrence 

and the structures controlling them.

At the same time that the United States was spending over 25 billion dollars 

on the Apollo lunar program alone, the USSR continued to work intensively 

on new types of intercontinental missiles and on the creation of new classes of 

submarines equipped with state-of-the-art ballistic and cruise missiles.

The Pentagon exaggerated the achievements of our missile technology, 

counting on securing a sharp increase in budgetary allocations for the SDI 

program from Congress. They reported to Congress and to the President of 

the United States that by the mid-1970s Soviet missiles had become con-

siderably more powerful and more accurate, which would enable them to 

quickly and effectively undermine the capability of U.S. ground forces for a 

retaliatory strike. According to the calculations of U.S. military economists (I 

was unable to find our own authoritative data), on average, the Soviet Union 

spent 40 billion dollars per year each on strategic offensive programs, and also 

on active and passive defensive programs. This did not take into account the 

many billions allocated for conventional armaments. In the Americans’ view, 

the Russians, despite their peaceful assurances, were adhering to doctrines for 

achieving their objectives by delivering a preemptive strike.

Given such a terrible prospect, could the United States allow itself to 

invest funds in colonizing the Moon, Venus, Mars, Mercury, and the moons 

of Saturn and Jupiter? It’s unclear when and what would happen there. But if, 

instead of the fanciful plans of eggheads dreaming of strolling along the “dusty 

lanes of distant planets,” you could mobilize scientists and industry, using the 

very latest achievements of world science, to develop advanced technologies 

and systems to protect against Soviet missiles, then you could kill three birds 

with one stone:



First, save the United States from the threat of nuclear annihilation if the 



USSR attacked first.

Second, draw the USSR into a new arms race—not of offensive weap-

ons, but defensive ones. This would require expenditures that the Soviet 

590


Epilogue

economy would be unable to sustain, and the United States would win a 

non-nuclear victory.

Third, rather than single one-of-a-kind space objects, create new types 

of defensive weaponry that require the mass production of weaponry to 

destroy the striking power of the attacking side. And this would require 

enormous capital investments, as well as hundreds of thousands of new 

jobs, and would bring enormous profits for companies capable of master-

ing very advanced technology.

The systemic concept of SDI looked very enticing. It called for the stage-



by-stage development and deployment of antiballistic missile complexes. It 

all began with space systems for monitoring and tracking targets during the 

powered flight segment, in space, and during entry into the atmosphere. 

Each enemy missile flight segment requires the development of its own moni-

toring and striking systems, including space-based systems, exoatmospheric 

interceptors, and ground-based antiballistic missiles. To destroy thousands of 

missiles and warheads flying toward the United States, it was suggested that 

conventional smart projectiles be used on the first stages, and thereafter a wide 

array of all sorts of laser weaponry. For “death rays” they designed space-based 

military neutral particle accelerators and space- and ground-based lasers. 

They also proposed the creation of super-high-velocity guns, first based on 

the ground and then in space. Engineer Garin, the main character of Aleksey 

Tolstoy’s famous novel Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin, works alone to create a 

portable device—the source of a beam that could burn through any obstacle 

in its path.

3

 Fifty years after the appearance of this talented science fiction 



detective, it turned out that it was really possible to create such a beam. But 

to do this required not one ingenious inventor, but thousands of engineers, 

physicists, and the most sophisticated manufacturing technology. Automated 

ground-based combat control and communication systems would be needed 

to control thousands of automatic vehicles on duty in space and a multitude 

of projectiles and combat platforms attacking the missiles of a potential enemy. 

They must receive advance information from numerous ground-based radar 

stations and surveillance satellites and, after processing the information, trans-

mit commands to the weapon.

The integrated systemic design called for the development of super-high-

speed computers, fundamentally new optical and microwave sensors to detect 

and track targets, high-capacity nuclear power energy sources to supply power 

 

3.  Aleksey Tolstoy’s Giperboloid inzhener Garina was first published in serialized form from 



1925 to 1927 in the journal Krasnaya nov [Red Virgin Soil].

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to accelerators and lasers, space-based platforms with all kinds of projectiles, 

and many other elements of new systems that were appealing to scientist-

inventors and engineers. For scientific creativity and corporate profitability, 

prospects had been opened up that were beyond their wildest dreams in the 

field of the peaceful exploration of space. Stunning “Star Wars” images filled 

movie and television screens.

After achieving worldwide celebrity for the United States, the Saturn V 

launch vehicle proved unnecessary for the SDI program. There were no payloads 

for it. In the view of the SDI creators, the Shuttles could handle everything that 

needed to be preliminarily inserted in space. Thus, the Americans themselves 

closed the door on piloted flights to the Moon and planets. All the prognoses 

and actual designs for this subject have been left for historians and posterity, 

if they are lucky enough in the 21st century to bring back to life the attempts 

to conduct interplanetary expeditions.

The new space initiative of President George W. Bush, made public in 

2006,



calls for a return to the Moon, the construction of a lunar base, and an 



expedition to Mars. The exact dates of the flight have not yet been mentioned, 

but there is no place for an updated Saturn V and Space Shuttle in these pro-

spective programs. Space transport systems are once again under development 

using the wealth of past experience.

5

After the collapse of the USSR and the signing of various international 



agreements, the SDI program had to be curtailed. In any case, only scientific 

research has been continued. However, the broad capabilities of space technol-

ogy have found practical application in local wars. If the main objective of the 

space vehicles of the SDI program was to protect the territory of the United 

States against Soviet missiles, then in the local wars in the Persian Gulf region 

in 1991, during the NATO offensive in Yugoslavia in 1999, and in the war 

in Iraq, space technology supported the conduct of combat actions in three 

areas: on land, on the sea, and in the air.

According to the latest data, more than 100 automatic space vehicles 

took part in the military operations in the Balkans. They conducted optical-

electronic, radar, and radio reconnaissance; provided navigational support for 

 

4.  Chertok means 2004.



 

5.  President George W. Bush announced his Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) during a 

speech given on 14 January 2004. According to the original plan, humans were to return to the 

Moon by 2018 and set up a permanent base. Such a base could eventually be used for future 

missions to Mars. A new, crewed space transportation system, known as Constellation, would 

use elements of the Space Shuttle design. The Constellation program, however, was effectively 

canceled by President Barack Obama, although some elements (such as the Orion vehicle) could 

still be built.

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Epilogue

combat aviation, and high-precision cruise missiles; and gave meteorological 

support and communications for troop control at strategic and tactical levels.

At the end of the Cold War, the United States had achieved its primary 

strategic objective: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the neutralization or 

utilization for its own interests of Russia’s scientific and technical potential. 

Having remained the sole superpower for a while, the United States is rushing 

to turn our planet and near-Earth space into a zone of American interests.

Instead of resuscitating programs for interplanetary flights, NASA has 

come up with the idea of creating a large near-Earth orbital station. Russia’s 

indisputable achievements in this field were the reason for this. I wrote earlier 

about how and why we got ahead of the Americans in the creation of Long-

Duration Orbital Stations.

Let’s return to the Soviet Union and have a look at what we planned 

during the last years of Korolev’s life and the two decades after him. Unlike 

the Americans, we did not predict the future until the year 2001; rather, we 

began at once to design this future.

In 1959, the R-7 rocket had just learned how to fly. After many failures, 

we finally delivered a pendant of the USSR to the Moon with a direct hit and 

astounded the world, having transmitted the first authentic, if not very clear, 

images of the far side of the Moon. That same year of 1959, with Korolev’s 

approval, Mikhail Tikhonravov’s group, which included Maksimov, Dulnev, 

Dashkov, and Kubasov, designed a heavy interplanetary spacecraft.

6

 Work on 



the design of a single-seat Vostok had just begun, and these zealots had already 

designed the equipment layout for a three-seat vehicle weighing 75 tons, 12 

meters long, and 6 meters in diameter. A year later they modified the design: 

they added a nuclear reactor to the vehicle as a power source. After getting 

involved in the design process, Feoktistov and Gorshkov increased the number 

of crewmembers to six. Three or four people could land on the surface of Mars 

and travel in special planetary rovers.

In 1964, on the advice of the chairman of the State Committee on 

Defense Technology, Sergey Zverev, the Scientific-Research Institute of 

Transport Machine Building (NIItransmash) became involved in the design 

of planetary rovers.

7

 The main specialty of this NII was tank building. Korolev 



personally visited NIItransmash. Director Vladimir Stepanovich Starovoytov 

 

6. The generic name of this project, which continued through the 1960s, 1970s, and 



1980s, was Heavy Interplanetary Ship (TMK).

 

7.  Sergey Alekseyevich Zverev (1912–1978) served as chairman of the State Committee 



on Defense Technology from 1963 to 1965.

593


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

introduced him to Aleksandr Levonovich Kemurdzhian, whom they asked 

to switch from a tank to a planetary rover. Eight years later Kemurdzhian 

had managed to create lunar rovers that could be controlled from Earth. 

From 1970 to 1973, two lunar rovers traveled a total of 47 kilometers on 

the surface of the Moon.

Work on the Mars expedition project continued after Korolev. Failed 

launches of the N-1 rocket did not dampen the enthusiasm of Korolev’s 

“Martians.” Mikhail Melnikov’s team, together with the organizations of the 

Ministry of Medium Machine Building, achieved the first encouraging suc-

cesses in the development of space nuclear reactors as primary power sources. 

Thermionic generators were sources of electric power for electric rocket engines, 

which had a performance index five times greater than chemical engines. The 

results of broad research on nuclear power sources and electric rocket engines 

inspired confidence in the reality of interplanetary expeditions.

Glushko, who had come to lead Korolev’s team, rather than shut down 

the project, supported Fridrikh Tsander’s rallying cry well known to the lead-

ing lights—“Onward to Mars!” Under Glushko, the Mars vehicle design was 

enriched for reliability with a second nuclear reactor. After operations on the 

N-1 and N-1M were shut down completely in 1976, Glushko insisted on 

using the Vulkan launch vehicle, designed to insert a payload of up to 230 

tons into near-Earth orbit.

The expedition project based on the Vulkan gave rise to acute “allergy” 

attacks in our ministry and in the cabinets of the VPK. For this reason, the 

planners of interplanetary expeditions switched to the Energiya launch vehicle, 

capable of inserting up to 100 tons of payload into Earth orbit. The very exten-

sive experience of assembling large structures in space, which was accumulated 

during the creation of orbital stations, inspired confidence that an expedition 

could be assembled in Earth orbit in increments of 100 tons each, provided 

with everything it needed, and sent to Mars.

Everyone who has returned from space talks about how beautiful our Earth 

is. But both cosmonauts and unpiloted surveillance and reconnaissance satel-

lites see that on our blue planet, small wars continue unabated. Even without 

space-based reconnaissance, it is well known that wars in Afghanistan and 

Chechnya and the destruction in Yugoslavia and Iraq have cost tens of times 

more money than needed for an expedition to Mars.

After the collapse of the USSR and the beginning of the implementation 

of a “market economy” in Russia, cosmonautics not only lost government 

support, but also encountered the concealed and open opposition of the 

reformers who ended up in power. After the death of Valentin Glushko, from 

1991 through 2005 Yuriy Semyonov occupied the post of general director 

and general designer of NPO Energiya. In 1994, this state organization was 

594


Epilogue

converted into the publicly traded corporation S. P. Korolev Energiya Rocket-

Space Corporation.

8

Unlike its predecessors, the managers of Russia’s rocket-space enterprises 



had to work under “new economic conditions” and above all solve the problem 

of survival. The chief and general designers had attained great achievements 

during the epoch of the centralized mobilized economy. However, during that 

time, not one of them had to fear for the very existence of the enterprise and 

its staff. The omnipotent Central Committee could remove a chief designer 

from the job and replace him with a more obedient one. As I recall, in the 45 

years after the war this very seldom happened. But before 1992, no one even 

dreamed that enormous staffs could be deprived of the means to sustain them 

and pushed to the verge of a squalid existence. The struggle for survival—the 

new sphere of business for the managers of all enterprises and organizations of 

the once powerful military-industrial complex—demanded enormous efforts. 

Not everyone managed to endure. Despite the fierce struggle for survival that 

the management of RKK Energiya faced, the Mars expedition projects con-

tinued to be updated. True, this was only on paper.

Well, but what about the Moon? After the American expeditions to the 

Moon we considered it quite realistic to even the score by establishing a per-

manently operating lunar base. Proposals for the delivery of a nuclear power 

plant to the Moon seemed quite feasible. The plant would power a factory for 

the production of oxygen from lunar rocks and provide life support for all the 

systems for scientific research.

Back in Mishin’s time, the staff of TsKBEM and specialists under Barmin’s 

supervision at KB OM had been working on the development of a design for 

the lunar base relying on the N-1M launch vehicle.

9

 Funding for these proj-



ects came from the budget of the Ministry of General Machine Building.

10

 I 



have already mentioned that Glushko objected to continuing these projects in 

 

8.  The S. P. Korolev Energiya Rocket-Space Corporation (Raketno-kosmicheskaya korporatsiya 



‘Energiya’ imeni S. P. Koroleva, or RKK Energiya) was established by an order of the president 

of the Russian Federation on 29 April 1994.

 

9.  KB OM—Konstruktorskoye byuro obshchego mashinostroyeniya (Design Bureau of Machine 



Building)—was the new designation for Barmin’s old design bureau, originally known as GSKB 

Spetsmash. As of 2011, KB OM was known as the V. P. Barmin Scientific-Research Institute 

of Launch Complexes, which is a branch of the larger TsENKI—Tsentr ekspluatatsii obyektov 

nazemnoy kosmicheskoy infrastruktury (Center for the Operation of Ground Space Infrastructure 

Objects), the consolidated organization that manages all ground infrastructure for the Russian 

space program.

 10.  The implication here is that the project was not funded by the primary clients of the 

Soviet space program, the missile and space forces.

595


Rockets and People: The Moon Race

Barmin’s shop and persuaded the ministry and the VPK to completely transfer 

these projects to NPO Energiya.

Glushko entrusted the management for developing the Zvezda lunar 

expedition complex to two quite distinguished figures of Korolev’s school. 

Konstantin Bushuyev was in charge of developing vehicles for the flight to 

the Moon and return to Earth, while Ivan Prudnikov was in charge of the 

lunar village, which called for a habitation module, a nuclear power station, a 

laboratory module, a factory module, and a driver-operated lunar rover with 

an operating radius of up to 200 kilometers.

11

 Bushuyev, who held the high-



activity post of director of the Soviet part of the Apollo-Soyuz program, had 

a difficult time making the transition to the placid design work on the lunar 

base after the program’s brilliant conclusion in 1975.

During this period I was so loaded down with updates on the Soyuzes 

and off-nominal situations on the Salyuts that I didn’t have time to respond to 

Bushuyev’s and Prudnikov’s requests to delve into the details of their projects 

and render active assistance in designing the control and electric power systems.

In the winter of 1977, during one of our “nightcap” strolls along 

Academician Korolev Street shrouded in a frosty fog, Bushuyev complained 

that he didn’t believe in his current design for the lunar expedition complex.

“No one but Valentin Glushko is interested in this work,” said Bushuyev. 

“The ministry and the VPK say that we need to catch up with the Americans 

in terms of a reusable transport system. With [Yuriy] Semyonov in charge, 

you all don’t have time for anything but orbital stations and Soyuzes. Igor 

Sadovskiy has gotten carried away with the Soviet version of the Shuttle and 

considers our work on the Moon to be frivolous. The Central Committee 

wants to perform as many piloted launches as possible in order to outdo the 

Americans in terms of the number of cosmonauts. We are planning an expe-

dition counting on having at least 60 tons in lunar orbit and landing cargoes 

of 22 tons each on the surface of the Moon. If we hadn’t stopped upgrading 

the N-1, we would have optimized the hydrogen Block S

R

 instead of Blocks 



G and D. Then two launches for such a payload would have been sufficient. 

In all: 8 to 10 launches of the upgraded N-1—and we would have a base for 

six persons on the Moon.”

The next morning, I dropped everything and I went to Bushuyev’s office 

and listened to his comments on the wall charts and diagrams of the lunar 

base/station project.

 11.  Ivan Savelyevich Prudnikov (1919–) served as chief designer at NPO Energiya from 

1974 to 1982, specializing in human lunar spacecraft.

596


Epilogue

From the author’s archives.




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